Feminist identity and the personal epistemologies of Latina college students
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The current study examines the relationships between women’s ways of knowing, ethnicity, and feminist identity, making use of Belenky et al’s (1986) research paradigm published in Women’s Ways of Knowing (WWK). The focus of the WWK project was to understand women’s beliefs about knowledge and how they made meaning of their educational experiences. Building on Belenky et al’s work, we seek to investigate how Latinas’ identification with feminism and their culture intersect to influence women’s beliefs about knowledge. The study employed a mixed-methods design, 101 students who self-identify as Latina and who are currently enrolled at a Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) were recruited from undergraduate courses to participate in an online survey. Participants were asked to complete a web-based survey, which included questions regarding their attitudes towards feminism and the women’s movement, language praxis, media use, and their attitudes towards learning. Participants were also asked to provide demographic, which included a question about whether or not they identified themselves as a feminist. In the interview portion of the study, 20 participants were asked questions about feminism, and were prompted to explain why they do or do not identify as a feminist. They were also asked about their beliefs about opinions, and how they distinguish between what is factually right and wrong. Overall, the Latina woman surveyed held relatively favorable attitudes towards feminism, with 71% identifying themselves as feminists. The results of the study confirmed the initial hypothesis, which stated that feminist identity would be related to connected knowing, however, there were no significant differences between feminists and non-feminists on a measure of Hispanic and non-Hispanic acculturation. There was also no significant relationship between acculturation and specific ways of knowing. Qualitative results demonstrate that Latina women emphasize family and morality when discussing both feminism and beliefs about knowledge.